Macbeth, Botanical Gardens, Glasgow

Full of sound and fury
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The Independent Culture

A remote corner of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, high above the river Kelvin, lush with a Victorian multitude of trees, is the apt but ill-used setting for the shortest of Shakespeare's tragedies.

A remote corner of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, high above the river Kelvin, lush with a Victorian multitude of trees, is the apt but ill-used setting for the shortest of Shakespeare's tragedies.

Macbeth starts late, one assumes to take advantage of the gloom of twilight this far north. However, despite a half-hour delay, the darkness resolutely fails to gather until the final scenes. "Perhaps they've found a body in the park," suggests a friend, darkly (and wrongly), as we wait for this Glasgow Rep production to begin, unwittingly providing one of the few dramatic moments of the evening.

Once the production is under way, however, it charges on at a relentless pace. "If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly," mutters a murderous Macbeth, a view the director Andrew Mackinnon seems to have taken as the guiding principle for this production, a rush job of hacked-up speeches and misguided directorial conceits.

Lady Macbeth - an unconvincing Jennifer Dick - pointlessly repeats her "Out, damned spot" speech three times, as though Mackinnon feels Shakespeare has not adequately underlined her madness. Macbeth's speeches are intermittently reworked by the ever present witches - no black and midnight hags these, but stretch jersey and combats-clad young women who repeat the fated thane's lines in what seems a rather clumsy attempt to drive home their complete control of the situation. The death of Macduff's wife and children is played inexplicably for laughs, hammed up to the max by the weird sisters. Mac-kinnon does occasionally find useful ways in which to overcome the logistical problems created by his small cast, but in this blandly modern and under-rehearsed production, there is too little foul whispering.

Played in a smallish space between two trees, forming a sort of rough arboreal proscenium arch, there is some attempt to exploit the setting by providing both an enclosed area and the sense of a vast unseen landscape beyond. The voices of the actors echo through the river escarpment, sometimes returning accompanied by faint but crystal-clear streams of abuse from an unseen drunk angry at this literary intrusion into good drinking time.

Malcolm, played by Stuart Jameson, provides brief respite with a change of pace in a cast that generally has a tendency to shout. Macduff (the otherwise stalwart Stephen Docherty) makes little impression here, despite providing the one genuinely moving moment in this production when he breaks down on hearing that his wife and children have been slaughtered.

David Ireland's Macbeth is rather underdone in this context, reacting with childlike shell-shock to every snippet of increasingly bad news. The most powerful moment in this production comes as Macbeth, on learning that Banquo intends to go riding, plots to have both Banquo and his son Fleance murdered to thwart the prophecy that Banquo's heirs will succeed him. Only the audience sees the horror behind Ireland's casually questioning, "Goes Fleance with you?"

But these moments are lost in a static production characterised by an unimaginative use of space, as the director tries, presumably, to create a claustrophobic feeling. Sadly, in recreating a theatre space in traditional frame, he has lost much of the freedom that is exciting in outdoor theatre.

To Saturday (0141-334 3995)

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